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Enthusiastic 80s parents didn’t stifle a generation, they motivated it

1980s parents are criticized for pampering children, but their encouragement has fueled motivation, creativity, and resilience for an entire generation.

Enthusiastic 80s parents

Growing up in the 80s, my parents were like many other parents of the time as they were quite enthusiastic about their encouragement of their children. I grew up hearing that I could do whatever I set my mind on, and could grow up to be anything I wanted.

While it’s been popular to criticize this 80s and 90s parenting trend, and group it with the “dangers” of leading your child on to believe he is “special,” let me explain to you why this has instead turned out to be quite a source of success in my adult life.

Let me introduce you to what I describe as the biggest lie of my life. I’ve always loved art. I went to art camps, took weekly classes at the local art museum, and signed up for every painting, pottery, photography, and sketching class that was offered in high school.

My family praised my artwork, told me what a wonderful artist I was, and hung my pictures on the wall. This went on for years until nearly adulthood when I had a realization. You see, as it turns out, I’m not that great of an artist.

The very adult lesson in their hanging my horrible art

I remember the first time I realized this, and while I was a little embarrassed that my parents had hung my marginal piece of artwork on the wall in their family room for so many years, I wasn’t upset about this lie. I mean, there’s a chance that they really loved my sad attempts at realism meets expressionism meets impressionism but it’s unlikely.

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Instead it taught me something. Their encouragement was the childhood equivalent of “fake it ‘till you make it.” Their relentless encouragement of something I was truly passionate about pushed me forward. It caused me to continue to explore this interest until I found something else that interested me just as much, or more.

Had I been encouraged to find something I was good at instead of something I wanted to be good at my passion may have fizzled.

This encouragement guided my career change

After high school, I found my second passion and I was determined to earn my degree in education and become a teacher. Three education degrees later and ten years of teaching, I’ve realized that it was a great run but there are other opportunities I’d like to explore, as well.

Instead of being scared about my lack of experience in other fields, I had the encouragement of my parents lingering in the back of my mind. I could do whatever I set my mind to.

Finding motivation in adulthood

To this day I still love art, and enjoy it as often as I can (and have been known to even hang a few crappy pictures in my own home). My parents’ encouragement that I can do whatever I set my mind to and I can be whatever I choose has given me motivation in my adult life to seek out new opportunities with open arms, even if they aren’t in my wheelhouse.

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Fast forward several years since my career change and I’ve picked up new skill sets in marketing, small business operations, and writing that I would have never dreamed of having before.

You can encourage your team as my parents did me

Sometimes success isn’t about one’s ability or the knowledge they possess, but the courage to find the answers when they aren’t readily available or try something different that hasn’t been tried.

Making a leap of faith in business, going down a new path in your career, or even personally learning a new skill or hobby derives from the internal courage to try. Encouragement doesn’t have to begin at childhood, business owners can use the same strategies with their employees.

Would one of your sales people do a better job in marketing, but lacks the confidence? Does an intern show signs of management skills? Should your head of engineering be a really great trainer?

With the right coaching and with confidence a change in direction can be easy. Sometimes that budding artist is a better writer than they are painter – they just need the encouragement to put down the brush and pick up the pen.

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Written By

Megan Noel, a veteran ex-educator with a PhD in Early Childhood Education, enjoys researching life through the eyes of her two young children, while writing about her family’s adventures on With a nearly a decade in small business and marketing, this freelance writer spends most evenings pouring over new ideas and writing articles, while indulging in good food and better wine.

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